The Neon Demon Review
The Neon Demon follows a [very] young woman as she pursues a modelling career that leads her down a dark path of discovery of herself and the industry she desperately wants to be a part of. The greed and conceit of true beauty proves to be the ugliest thing of all as she attempts to survive the physical and psychological onslaught of slightly older and envious rivals.
While generally well-received amidst the intellectual niche of the horror community, I found Neon Demon to be a cinematic contradiction. While on its shell it would seem to be an original and fascinating premise, the film feels like a perfect blend of a trio of movies we've already seen. It didn't take long for these films to creep into my subconscious and quickly invade my viewing experience of this film. And when I couldn't get passed it, my objectivity suffered for it.
Neon Demon felt like equal parts Black Swan, Starry Eyes, and Only God Forgives. Black Swan in the construction of relationships and psychological breakdown, Starry Eyes in the dark, brooding metaphors for the modelling industry, and Only God Forgives in that it had director Refn's overtly colorful and unique style mashed into a bland and predictable format. There's a gray area in the realm of appreciating the moment when you can tell a film is done by a particular director and being deadened by the predictability of the film. This film, in my opinion, fell into the latter.
The premise as a whole was too close to Starry Eyes to consider it original at all. I couldn't appreciate the film for its morbid analogy of sexism in the celebrity and modelling realm because, frankly, I had already seen it before in an effective and admittedly similar format. Sure, the film has it Refn feel, but it feels so familiar that at times I thought I was watching Only God Forgives with Ryan Gosling replaced with Elle Fanning.
But it's not all doom and gloom...Well, it is, and perhaps that's where the film shines. The final act picks up the pace to give us a dramatic conclusion that is emotional, distasteful, disturbing and dwelling. I will admit that, much like Only God Forgives, I got lost on some reasoning that occurs. Unlike Drive, which fantastically tells a story with little dialogue from the protagonist, some of his other films, like this one, makes a few moments a little too vague and open to interpretation for my taste. Sometimes I like to think hard about why my horror is happening on screen, but when it becomes exhaustive with little pay-off, I either feel stupid or cheated...and let me tell you, people, I feel stupid a lot.
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 6/10
Film Quality: 5/10